Research Projects

Major Transitions in Individuality (Current)

Major evolutionary transitions change the fundamental way in which information is stored and transmitted across generations, allowing for significant, innovative leaps in biological complexity. These events are often cited as a mechanism by which biological evolution remains open ended. In fraternal transitions, related individuals unite to divide labor amongst themselves, behaving as a single, higher level individual. Examples include the evolution of multicellularity or eusocial insect colonies. The goal of this research project is to develop a digital evolution system that can be used to watch fraternal transitions happen in real-time, allowing us to study the step-by-step process by which fraternal transitions occur.

The Evolution of Phenotypic Plasticity (Current)

Alex Lalejini

Click for a cool web visualization about this project!

Phenotypic plasticity is the capacity of a genotype to express different phenotypes (e.g. traits or characteristics) in response to different environmental conditions. Plasticity is often leveraged as a strategy to cope with heterogenous environments. In computer science, our algorithms are often 'plastic' in the sense that they will often behave very differently based on their inputs. In fact, we often get plasticity for free when we use things like 'if' statements. I am using digital evolution to study the step-by-step process by which evolution develops plastic algorithms. This work is exciting to me as a computer scientist interested in algorithms, but it's also of great interest to evolutionary biologists, revealing stepping stones for the evolution of phenotypic plasticity that are generalizable across both natural and computation systems. Here is a paper detailing some early results: (pdf) To explore the stages lineages go through in route to the evolution of plasticity, I created this web-visualization showing the phenotypic stages of evolved lineages.

ANVEL-ROS: The integration of the robot operating system with ANVEL (Spring 2014 - Summer 2015)

Alex Lalejini
I worked as part of a research team on the Computational Research for Engineering and Science Ground Vehicles Virtual Testbed Environment Project. The project involved integrating the Robot Operating System with the ANVEL Unmanned Ground Vehicle Simulator. Our ultimate aim was to compare the results of human-robot interaciton studies carried out in a virtual environment with human-robot interaction studies carried out in the real world. Resulting publication for work accomplished during my involvement with the project: (pdf)

Robot Intent and Control (Fall 2013 - Fall 2014)

Alex Lalejini
I worked as a project co-lead on the Robot Intent and Control Project in the Social, Therapeutic, and Robotic Systems Laboratory. When humans collaborate in a team setting, the success of the team often depends on individual members of the team being able to successfully communicate their intentions to their teammates. Additionally, as the situations change, some teammembers may need to request other teammembers alter their behavior. But, what if your teammate is a robot? What's the most effective way for your robot teammate to convey its intentions to you? And, what is the most natural way to override those intentions when necessary? The Robot Intent and Control Project addressed those exact questions. Read about our study here!: (pdf)